Thousands gather for funeral of New York police officer shot dead
NEW YORK // Thousands of people gathered on Saturday for the funeral of a New York police officer who was killed in an ambush shooting along with his partner, with hundreds of officers turning their backs on the city’s mayor when he spoke during the service.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said hearts citywide were aching after the December 20 attack that left officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu dead.
The reaction from officers watching Ramos’ funeral on giant screens outside the Christ Tabernacle Church follows comments from police union officials who said Mr Bill de Blasio contributed to a climate of mistrust toward police amid anti-police protests.
Inside the Queens borough church, however, mourners gave the mayor polite applause both before and after his speech.
Earlier on in the service, US vice president Joe Biden received applause from officers and other mourners both inside and outside the church when he called the New York Police Department the finest in the world.
“When an assassin’s bullet targeted two officers, it targeted this city and it touched the soul of an entire nation,” Mr Biden said, addressing hundred of mourners inside the church, as well as thousands more from across the country who had congregated outside.
Meanwhile, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said the daylight shootings of the officers as they sat in their patrol car were “an attack on all of us.”
Funeral plans for officer Liu have yet to be announced.
The attack shook the city and put an end to large-scale local protests, which had criticised New York police over a series of high-profile, in-custody deaths.
The police union’s president, Patrick Lynch, has previously blamed the city’s mayor for the officers’ deaths and said he had blood on his hands.
Weeks before the shooting, Mr Lynch suggested that officers sign a petition requesting that Mr de Blasio not attend their funerals if they were to die in the line of duty.
When officer Ramos’ family arrived at the church on Saturday, his eldest son — wearing his father’s NYPD jacket — was hugged by a police officer.
“What happened to my father was a tragedy,” his son Justin said in a tearful eulogy. “But his death will not be in vain.”
Ramos, a 40-year-old married father of two, was studying to become a pastor and kept Bible study books in his locker, his commanding officer said.
Officer Dustin Lindaman of the Waterloo police department flew to New York from Iowa to attend his funeral.
“He’s one of our brothers, and when this happens, it affects everyone in law enforcement — it absolutely affects everyone,” he said. “We wanted to show our support.”
Following the death of the officers on a street in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant section, the gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, killed himself. Police said he was troubled and had shot and wounded an ex-girlfriend in Baltimore earlier that day.
In online posts shortly before the attack, Brinsley referenced the killings of two unarmed black men — Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner on Staten Island — by white police officers. The killings have sparked anti-police protests across the country in recent months.
Mayor de Blasio has stood firmly by police since the shooting, calling on demonstrators to temporarily halt their protests and praising officers after the police department announced the arrest of a seventh person since the shooting for making threats against police.
A block from the church, retired NYPD officer John Mangan held a sign that read: “God Bless the NYPD. Dump de Blasio.”
“If the mayor really wanted to do the right thing, he would have gotten into an NYPD car and rode around Bed Stuy and see the difficult jobs these cops do every day,” Mr Mangan said. “The bottom line is there should be more signs out here in support of these cops.”
Ramos and Liu were the first officers to die in the line of duty in New York since 2011.
They have both been posthumously promoted to first-grade detective, police said.
* Associated Press
Published: December 27, 2014 04:00 AM